A needy child anywhere in the world deserves compassion, but rare are the places where one can make such an extraordinary impact as in Nepal – a fabled Himalayan country that is one of the poorest nations of the world.
A sponsor of two kids at J & K House said,
“Olga saw kids with so many needs and started this great organization. We like that groups like this can make a little money go so far. You can feel the passion with these kinds of organizations.”
Corte Madera, CA
Nepal is a place of spectacular extremes. The land rises from the hot, low-lying Terai plains to the peak of Mt. Everest, the highest point on the planet. Barely the size of Arkansas, Nepal holds eight of the world’s ten highest peaks, even as its lowest point is 70 meters above sea level. Parts of Nepal only recently have been opened to Western visitors.
Nepal’s cities also are extraordinary. The streets of Kathmandu are clogged with traffic and studded with ancient temples where every morning the local people serenely make offerings, ringing temple bells over the honking of horns and lighting incense amid diesel exhaust. Exquisite woodcarvings dating back centuries adorn buildings that are falling down. Buddhists and Hindus share the same shrines. In alleys tucked between cybercafes, children disabled by polio beg for rupees.
Foreign visitors come to Nepal to go trekking, and they return deeply moved by the poverty, strength, and indomitable spirit of the Nepalese people they encountered on their treks. They are struck by the beauty of the children beneath their rags. They return home agreeing with the claim, “Visit Nepal and your life will be changed.”
Statistics express some of the complexities of working in Nepal. Over 26 million people live in Nepal, and they consist of 92 castes, subcastes, ethnic, and subethnic groups, representing 40 languages. Although there has been a massive influx to Kathmandu, the vast majority of Nepalese still eke out a living from subsistence farming in rural areas far from electricity, roads, or other social services. Only 20 percent of the land is arable, the rest is too mountainous. Deforestation is rampant.
Medical care is limited, and Nepal has virtually no social programs for people who, for whatever reason, end up destitute – no food stamps, no welfare, and no social security.
Women and girls in particular are disadvantaged. Only about half of girls are able to read or write, and their older sisters and mothers are even less likely to be literate. The legal system also discriminates against women. Cultural mores make it difficult for women to assert their basic human rights and receive health care and a decent education. Lack of education among girls usually means early marriage and child-bearing (34% of Nepali girls are married by arrangement before they are 16 years old, and seven percent are under 10 years of age). For such young women, there is little family planning, poor child care, and a lower likelihood that their own daughters will be educated. The cycle of poverty continues.
From a supporter
who has seen NYF’s projects in Nepal
“Our visit with Olga and tours of the J & K House plus the Nutrition Center were by far the most impressive experiences we had during our visit in Nepal.
“What a fabulous project – we were so very impressed!”
Infant mortality in Nepal is one of the highest in the world (6.4%). According to a UNICEF report, half of all Nepalese children under the age of five who do survive are malnourished – a preventable condition that nevertheless can leave them with physical and mental problems for a lifetime. (It is estimated that one in ten people in Nepal, or over 2 million individuals, suffer from some form of disability.)
Nothing rekindles hope in the human condition like witnessing the transformation of children. Meet some of Nepal’s children, read our latest newsletters, and sign up for our email dispatches by contacting info@NepalYouthFoundation.org.
The majority of Nepal’s population are children under age 18. These young people are hardly prepared for the challenges that lie ahead of them. While 70% of Nepalese children begin elementary school, half of them drop out before the fifth grade. Fortunately, the internal armed conflict in Nepal that caused millions of children to suffer and almost 1000 to be killed or injured, came to a relatively peaceful resolution in 2006. Even so, a decade of violence has left 40,000 children displaced, 8000 orphaned, and many in great need.
Some children face special challenges. Because family connections are everything in Nepal, the burden of poverty falls severely on children whose parents have died or are too sick to care for them, or are themselves destitute. These children end up begging and sleeping on the streets. Some young children work as servants. Girls are in special need of protection and education because many thousands are sold or kidnapped each year to serve in brothels.
The most disadvantaged of all are children with disabilities. In Nepalese culture, these children can be considered curses. They are seen as something shameful, perhaps a punishment for a sin of the family. In Kathmandu, a child with a disability – crippled from polio, blind or deaf, burned or without limbs – often will end up on the street. In the villages, disabled children rarely receive an education.
And yet – beneath all this tragedy lies enormous potential, like a Himalayan spring hiding beneath the snows.
However impoverished or disabled, and however difficult the circumstances that surround them, Nepalese children have an enormous capacity for happiness and success. We have seen it countless times. So many of them have that special light in their eyes that speaks of hope, if only someone would give them a helping hand. When we clothe and feed these children, send them to school, and provide love and support, they blossom, growing into active, happy, healthy individuals who are capable of giving back to their society.